for Eileen Cowin
It was not love. No flowers or ripened figs
were in his hands, no words
in his mouth. There was no body
to obstruct us from each other.
The sun was white-hot, a brand
that sank through me and left no mark.
Yet I knew. And Joseph,
poor Joseph with his thick palms,
What could he do but wash
the scorched smell from the linen?
What could he do but fit the blades
of wood together into a cradle?
The rain fell and the leaves closed
over us like a shield.
A small light formed and the taper
that held it aloft
was dipped many times into my blood.
Now the being rests in the bowl of my hips.
There is no turning. Already
the nails are forged.
The tree thickens.
from Baptism of Desire: poems by Louise Erdrich (New York: Harper & Row, 1989) p. 11